The “Climate Change Affects Us All” Myth

Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 11:14 UTC 5 comments

Like many myths, the myth that says that Climate Change will affect us all is based on some degree of truth. But it is also somewhat unhelpful if we are to understand the imperative to act. We in Britain are already likely to fare much better than those elsewhere in the world, for instance Tuvalu, where the danger of total landmass submersion is now so great, they’ve been forced to act much more decisively than anyone in Europe has managed thus far.

To first understand the problem with this myth we perhaps need to examine a political force that makes little sense to many people: post-politics. Within normal political wrangling, a situation is up for dispute, and conflicting priorities help form different sides to the argument. It is generally acknowledged that Pharmaceutical corporations and the NHS and other healthcare bodies will have different ideas about how much a drug should cost, for instance.

But some issues have been moved into an area which can broadly be defined as the Post-Political, and Climate Change is one of them. We are essentially told that Climate Change is beyond doubt, and the need to act is beyond doubt, therefore there cannot be anywhere near as much debate to be had. The problem is, there’s plenty of debate to be had, and many of the solutions on the table either don’t show enough signs of working or they will only work for the world’s richest. The debate, therefore, should not be treated as if its already over.

The view from the President of Tuvalu’s office must be quite stunning. As leader of a nation made up of atolls, tiny slivers of land in the pacific most often only a meter high, his office is basically just up the beach. But when you know that Climate Change will result in a sea level rise enough to permanently flood your entire nation, its kind of life or death. We’re not talking about bits of Norfolk coast falling in, a few housing estates being sacrificed, or a hose-pipe ban here and there, we’re talking full scale obliteration of a nation and its heritage and culture. Quite frankly, they’re fucked.

The discrepancy makes a huge difference. Yes, everyone will be affected by Climate Change, but the magnitude of effect is so vast as to make the future suffering of the UK almost insignificant. In other words, Gordon and Barack will never feel the pain Tuvalu’s population faces, and therefore are understandably less hasty in their actions. Of course action is required, that debate finished, we’re in the post-Political realm here, and everyone should get behind the solutions they propose.

But many of the solutions they propose will do nothing but hurt the people of Tuvalu, both in their failure to secure enough decrease in Carbon usage, which would mean very nearly Carbon Neutrality, or in their tendency to lock the poorest populations of the world into strict models of consumption, whereby they are not at liberty to find “indigenous solutions”, instead facing long contracts with Western Companies who demand large payments (relative to local GDP) for fixing the technology we deem to be suitable to their needs.

It should be noted that the fall down in Brown’s £60billion conversion fund is that essentially he wants to create a fund for the poorest countries to spend on buying Western products such as wind turbines and the like. He’s not talking about putting £60billion into the economies of the poorest countries, he’s talking about investing in our economy and tying Africa, Asia and Latin America into an even more oppressive structure than the debt structure many of us have spent so long campaigning about.

The myth that I began this article with is simply not true: Britain will be one of the last parts of the world to become uninhabitable, and Western Europe no less resilient just by pure geography as well as by current technological development. When people use the argument that everyone will be affected by climate change, they’re effectively denying that the scale of destruction will be any worse anywhere else. The problem might be global, but it is also acutely targeted on specific people, and they are not us, and we should not use our minimal suffering to justify their enslavement to our solutions.

Instead, it is important to challenge politicians to realise that the debate around solutions is still very much a happening, current issue. We are no where near solving the Climate Crises, and are rapidly heading away from the most just solution available to us.


Entry filed under: Asia, Climate Change, Development, Energy, Environment, Politics, Technology.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Cooper  |  Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 11:30 UTC


    I am afraid on this one you are completely wrong. Climate Change does affect us all. While here in the UK we may not all be submerged, the fact is

    a) Fuel bills will rise – as a result fuel poverty will rise

    b) Growing extremes of weather will pose continued health risks to those not in the peak of their health (eg the elderly – as the heatwaves in france a few years ago proved)

    c) large swathes of the uk are built upon reclaimed land, if we reclaimed it from the sea it is only time before it reclaims it back

    d) The environmetnal changes will alter the way food and farming is done in this country.

    Sorry dude, missed target here. Maybe we won’t be affected in an earth shattering way but we will definatly be heavily effected.

    With Regards


    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 12:09 UTC

      a) This is why domestic solutions cannot just be market-based solutions. But the fact is, even if we don’t choose to act on it, we in the UK can. Try helping your Granny pay her fuel bill if you live in a South African township. This is also partly why Brown-Obama ideas need challenging.

      b) Yes, but we’ll still stand a chance of seeing our 60th birthdays.

      c) We can afford millions to strengthen sea defences.

      d) We can probably afford these changes, especially if they result in more Mediterranean veg being grown in England. Not the same as having your entire farmable land reduced to desert.

      I said it was a myth with some real basis, but its not an excuse for claiming that everyone is in the same boat and that Gordon can sympathise with Africa. And I was really comparing political establishments, which granted I didn’t make clear.

      • 3. Jo  |  Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 12:53 UTC

        I am not the best informed about climate change and its possible effects but: the Gulf Stream. Is the influx of melting polar ice into the oceans going to affect that at all? I have certainly heard speculation that it will, albeit not quickly.
        It doesn’t seem certain that it will happen but if that lovely warm current /does/ stop bathing our western shores, I think we’ll notice. I know our maritime climate will save us from Canadian or Scandinavian winters, but still I doubt we’ll be growing /more/ Mediterranean veg.

        Not as scary for our politicians as Tuvalu’s situation, but still worth acknowledging.

  • 4. Jon  |  Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 11:41 UTC

    What’s tricky here is that some of the countries which will be most devastated by climate change, like China, for example, are most adamant about doing nothing, the rationale being something like (this is not a direct quote) “Because the U.S. and Britain have polluted like this from the 1800’s-present (no longer true since 2006), we can do whatever we want, since everyone else is a racist hypocrite!” India, Japan, and many other formerly (semi) responsible countries have also been joining China in this chorus. In addition, because of their more convenient locations, European evironmentalists also need to campaign aggressively in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, where their governments and businesses are also aggressively pursuing highway projects and other subsidised sources of pollution, as well as running climate change denial “documentaries” on TV. Here in Prague, the only documentaries that I’ve seen on TV about climate change have been those which deny it, so it would also certainly be a mistake to say that Asia is the only continent were a government or business community can be as arrogant as in China. The West needs to act, and act quickly, not only to reduce their own emissions, but to influence the rest of the world. If not, by the time the U.K. and U.S. reform (if that ever happens), if China has not taken similar action (instead of doing everything to INCREASE pollution), the efforts made in the U.S. and U.K. could easily be made irrelevent.

    • 5. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 12:10 UTC

      The “East European” perspective is definitely one we don’t hear often enough, so thanks for putting it. Didn’t know about that highway in Czech Republic.


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